Tuesday, December 21

The Pro's Speaking Strategies

How are the Pro's speaking strategies different from all those other TOEFL texts? I mean, a speaking strategy is a speaking strategy, right? Wrong. Let's work out the difference with an example.

You want to buy a car, a Porsche 911, Turbo S Cabriolet, but you also want to save the planet, so you look at the Green Car. Okay? Okay. So you're looking at the Green Car and you see a big red button beside the stereo. Hmmm? What is that big red button for, you wonder? You ask the salesman.

"Excuse me, sir, can you tell me what this big red button is for?"
"Sure," the salesman says. "It's a red button. Nice, huh? I love red. Very sexy."
"Okay," you patiently reply. "So what does it do?"
"Do? Like I said, it's red."
"But what does it do? Make the car go faster, do my laundry? What?"
"Don't worry about that," the salesman says. "It's red. Trust me. Just push it."
"Why? Don't ask why. Just push it. Trust me. It's red. And big. Now will that be cash or charge?"

This is how standardized TOEFL texts teach speaking (and writing) strategies: there is no connection between the strategy taught (red button) and why you should use that strategy (push the button). In other words, there is no cause-and-effect. It's all cause ("Just push the button!") Now look at the Pro's method.

"Excuse me, sir, can you tell me what this big red button does?"
"Sure," the Pro says. "This red button is a speed maximizer. Push it once? You go fast (score 3). Push it twice? You go really fast (score 4). Push it three times? You'll think you're in a Porsche (score 5)."

As you can see, the Pro is all about cause-and-effect: use this speaking strategy (cause), get this score (effect). Scoring. That is what TOEFL is all about.

Want to push more buttons? It's all in the book.

Got a TOEFL question? Ask the Pro!

"The red button is a speed maximizer."

© Bruce Stirling 2010-11.